An engineering approach to solving world issues was the topic of Ron Hunter at the August 7 meeting of the Pattaya City Expats Club (PCEC). Ron is a PCEC board member and retired U.S. Marine and aerospace engineer. He suggested the use of just two of the engineering tools that he used extensively for problem solving. He qualified the approach by saying that if it were really that easy to solve world problems, there would be no world problems. He talked about his background, in order to understand where he is coming from and then introduced the two suggested tools: The Fault Tree Analysis and the 5-Why Analytical table.
To get audience energy revved up and to create some controversy, he showed a slide of Bill O’Reilly, Fox News, host of the O’Reilly Factor, a number 1 cable news show in the USA for past 14 years. However, Ron stated that when Bill talks about: “President Obama and the Race Problem – The reason there is so much violence and chaos in the black precincts is the disintegration of the African American family,” he gets very upset with Bill. Ron asked the audience to think about the issue and that it would be discussed later in the presentation.
Ron talked about background, suggesting that his life seems to move in 20-year increments. His first 20 years were in a small, west Texas town, just 50 miles from the Mexican border and just how isolated it is. The primary economy in Alpine is cattle ranching and that the ranches are measured in the 100’s of thousands of acres of open ranges where the cattle are free to graze. Twice–a-year round-ups require many cowboys, on horseback. Most ranches are owned by “old-rich-white-guys,” but residents don’t resent them because these families provided many jobs and took very good care of the community.
Tourism is another important part of Alpine’s economy. It is heralded as “The Gateway to Big Bend National Park.” He went on to describe the importance of sports in small town America, specifically baseball and American football. Then, he talked about his family life, losing his father at an early age, going to work as a teen, then joining the United States Marine Corps.
Ron talked about his 20 year Marine Corps career, including his Vietnam experiences including a brief tour as a helicopter door gunner. Most of his career involved F-4 and F/A-18 aircraft maintenance, teaching and supervision. He also had a short stat with the Navy Lakehurst Parachute Demonstration Team and became a private pilot. He retired in 1986, then began his aerospace career, after graduating from Southern Illinois University and living as a single parent.
The first three years as a civilian was with McDonnell Douglas, Long Beach, CA, on the U.S. Navy T-45 aircraft. He started in the concept phase and stayed until first flight, when the program moved to St. Louis. Not wanting to move, Ron joined Northrop Grumman in El Segundo, CA and the F/A-18 program as a Reliability Engineer where he honed his problem solving skills.
Ron used a simple example of the 5-Why Analytical Table, involving Dan the dispatcher. Having his car engine stop on the way to work, Dan did not dispatch an important product to a customer, who penalized the company $25k… so it was a big deal. The 5-why analysis shows how to set up a team, establish a problem statement, then ask 5 why questions to determine root cause and develop a proper solution to the problem.
He then went back to Bill O’Reilly’s talking points which further indicated that children raised without structure often reject education and gravitate towards vice. Bill then blames out-of-wedlock mothers, poor personal decisions, the entertainment industry and drugs. His solutions include challenging the entertainment industry, strong discipline and the need for leadership, including the president to “stop the nonsense.” Ron indicated that he wants to yell at the TV and challenge Bill to ask the next “Why” question.
The first “Why?” has to relate to the problem statement: Why is there a disintegration of the family? The answer is not clear, so the Fault Tree is used to provide the answer. First, a list of possible branches are developed, including: Drugs, Entertainment, Racism, Joblessness, Education, Welfare or “Other” branches. Each branch is evaluated by Subject Matter Experts (SME’s), to present the history, show charts, facts, etc., of each branch. A determination of “Cause or Effect” and recommend solutions are made and a determination of “Root Cause or Probable Cause” is made and solutions are determined. Ron’s conclusion is that welfare is the root cause and meaningful reform is the solution. He qualified this as this is just his opinion and not that of any “SME” input. He is just suggesting a process to be followed to solving issues. He also said that this process can be used to solve almost any problem involving the question, “Why?”
After the presentation, MC Roy Albiston brought everyone up to date on upcoming events and called on Ira Wettenstein to conduct the Open Forum, where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya.
For more information on the PCEC’s many activities, visit their website at www.pcecclub.org.